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A needs analysis to develop an astronomy program for Turkish elementary and seconday schools

Kahraman, Oktay
In this study, needs analysis has been made to gather the necessary data for developing a possible astronomy program for elementary and secondary schools in Turkey. In order to collect and to determine the students’ and teachers’ needs, 35 elementary schools and 20 secondary schools in the six districts (Keçiören, Çankaya, Yenimahalle, Altındağ, Mamak and Sincan) of Ankara in Turkey has been visited during 2004-2005 fall semester. 2133 elementary and 1180 secondary school students, and 37 teachers were involved in the study. In the first part of this study, the international science curricula were examined and the studies related with the concepts of astronomy and astronomy education was analyzed. According to the gathered data from the literature, it was observed that in the international science curricula astronomy education has an important part and most developed countries have astronomy standards in their elementary and secondary school. However, the importance of Turkish National Education given on Astronomy education was not as high as it was supposed to be compared to the international science programs. Also, it was viewed that there is no Astronomy education during secondary school education; there are no standards for Astronomy education in the national science education policy. In the second part of this study, the elementary and secondary school students’ and teachers’ opinions were collected. The opinions of the students and the teachers have been collected via questionnaires. These questionnaires have been designed to find answers to six sub-categories of the main problem. The sub-categories can be listed as the content of the program that was aimed to be developed, teaching and learning methods, evaluation period, educational atmosphere and facilities, significance of the astronomy course, and lastly the relationship between the students’ demographic features and preference of astronomy education. According to the gathered data from the questionnaires, the teachers supported the idea that a possible Astronomy course should be included in the curriculum of elementary education starting with the 6th grade, and they had a common opinion that an astronomy course should take part also in secondary school education. Moreover, most of the students who attended this study want to have a separate astronomy course in their education. Also, the findings revealed that there is a parallelism between the astronomy programs defined in the international arena and the teachers’ and students opinions about the content of the astronomy course in this study. To conclude, it was observed that the astronomy subjects listed in the questionnaire was selected with high percentages. Besides, for teaching and learning method the participants in the study wanted experiments and projects that are clear, comprehensible and related to daily life experiences. Also, performance based evaluation was supported in the evaluation process. Moreover, an education environment where there are visual based materials and teacher student cooperation is expected when teaching astronomy subjects. Lastly, according to teachers and students, the most important benefit of teaching and learning astronomy is getting information and recognizing the facts about the Earth and the Universe.